Always be recruiting. Even if you are not hiring.

Always be recruiting. Even if you are not hiring.

If I had a dollar for every time a recruiting manager told me they cannot find high-quality consultants, I guess I would be a wealthy man.

Equally, when I talk to corporate hiring managers, they constantly bemoan the shortage of quality talent.

Yet, when I ask what they are doing about capturing the best staff to ensure competitive advantage, they often stare at me blankly, or mumble platitudes about job boards and posting ads on LinkedIn.

In the knowledge economy, and in an era of systemic skills shortages, reactive recruiting is not going to work.

Owners and managers of recruitment agencies need to build recruitment activities into their daily agenda, whether they are hiring right now or not. Indeed, anyone seeking to hire ‘hard to find’ skills, needs to get with the program.

If you only start your recruiting activities once a vacancy emerges, you will lose the talent battle. And doom your company to being a ‘B’ grade business, at best.

In 2001, I inherited a small unsuccessful operation in Singapore, as part of the Aquent business when I became International CEO. The team comprised three or four modest consultants under the leadership of an inexperienced manager. I resolved to invest in that manager, but realised that a change might be required.

On that basis I began to speak to likely candidates in the market, very confidentially, even though I did not have a vacancy there and then. I made proactive calls, and I met a number of people, one in particular, let’s call him Kevin. And Kevin looked like an excellent fit.

But I was not ready to hire, and Kevin was not ready to move.

Thereafter began a prolonged two-way seduction. Every time I went to Singapore I met with Kevin and we talked about what the job could look like for him. What his responsibilities would be, and what the salary structure might comprise. It turn, I used those conversations, to track his performance, assess his management style, and got to know him as a person.

Kevin came to Sydney and we went for a few beers. We swapped e-mails. Over the course of 18 months I must have had more than 10 meetings or telephone conversations with him.

In the end my inexperienced Singapore manager couldn’t cope, and resigned. I phoned Kevin, and the deal was done in eight minutes. Literally. Everything had already been discussed. Trust and buy-in was secure on both sides. We had both done our due diligence and were champing at the bit.

Kevin indeed joined Aquent in 2002 and built Singapore office to 18 people and a pre-tax profit of US$1.5 million. When he inherited the business it was making a loss. He was with the company 7 years and subsequently took on a regional role, helping me open several other Asian offices.

One of my better hires.

Do you think my investment in a few coffees and the odd phone call paid off?

For both of us?

The point is this. If you are serious about getting the best talent, you need to work at it everyday. This means constantly interviewing. It means coffee and conversations with a wide range of potential employees. You will be honest and transparent at all times, of course. The message is, ‘We don’t have a vacancy now, but adding the best people to our business is our number one priority, so we would be honoured to chat with you’.

Set yourself a goal to have ‘100 cups of coffee’, with potential hires over the next 12 months.

That is 2 meetings a week. Sure it’s an investment. But think of the return!

All your staff must be given the same brief. The whole company should be constantly in recruitment mode for internal talent. If necessary, reward your team for finding good people who you subsequently hire.

Celebrate the efforts of those who attract talent your business. Build it into your cultural DNA.

Create a database of potential recruits and set notifications to make sure that you find a reason to keep in touch. Make those conversations frank, address issues that will either attract then to your business or knock them out as a potential employee.

Then, when the day comes that an ‘unexpected’ vacancy occurs, you will be ready, with four or five pre-qualified, pre-warmed, top performers, ready to engage.

The truth in recruitment is that the people with the best people always win in the end.

But it won’t happen by chance.

I don’t care if you are hiring now or anytime soon. You should still be recruiting.

Hard.

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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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8 Responses to Always be recruiting. Even if you are not hiring.

  1. Alyssa Bickler August 25, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    Excellent advice!

  2. Glandu August 27, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!

    That’s EXACTLY the trouble we have. We are a software vendor, and I’m from the rather small french branch. When someone leaves, that’s a 4-months hole guaranteed… despite the mandatory 3 month notice in our country.

    The chance we have is to be located in a very demanded city, with not much job opportunities of our kind. So we end up with very good profiles anyways, but the sorting process is eternally long, as most candidates are not fit(up to 70 for 1 place). Proactively recruiting would not necessary increase the quality of the hires(last ones are top notch), but it would surely improve the speed of recruiting. By a few months.

  3. CFV August 28, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Are there recruiters that actually follow your good advice?

  4. Frank August 28, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    Not wanting to take away from your overall message here, but you actively courting a new potential manager for your Singapore branch whilst you still had the current manager there – isn’t that a tad disrespectful to them ?

    I’m sure you spent time with the underperforming manager to assist in his growth, but if they were aware of your ongoing conversations with another who was in line for their role, to me just seems like a ‘dead man walking’ type scenario. He may have ultimately resigned from your business due to multiple reasons, but one of those may have also been as he simply felt he had lost the confidence from his CEO as you seem so enamoured by Kevin.

    Sorry if I’m overreacting on this one point, but I just don’t know how this sits with myself. I would be happy for my CEO to constantly be speaking to others in our industry when he visits town (which I’m sure he does), but to your frequent meetings & ongoing emails just sounds like your original manager never really had the chance to succeed as you had ‘fallen in love’ with another. The ultimate change saw the best for your business and the best for ‘Kevin’, but the original manager – to me – just seems like the doomed old wife who’s been replaced by the prettier new mistress.

    Other than that – great blog as always & I’m not meaning to start a whole side conversation here – just my thoughts. Cheers.

    • Greg Savage August 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

      Its a fair question Frank, but its like this. My overall responsibility is to the company, and the team. I was not “courting” anyone for her job. I was preparing a pipeline of talent for a job that may become available at some time in the future.
      I spent two years coaching, training and supporting the current manager. She left on HER decision. And when she did I was not left high and dry , because I had taken the steps I did. That was a massive benefit to the remaining staff and the business

  5. Frank August 28, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    Thanks Greg – fair call and you protected the businesses best interests which any good owner/CEO should. When she did leave, you seemed to have an action plan ready to go & that’s great forward planning. Just putting myself in your ex managers shoes though, I just felt a bit sorry for her from your description of what occurred with so much effort going into her potential replacement whilst she was still there.

  6. Hebergeur June 5, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    The industry is always changing, which means the needs of your medical sales team will change. Using predictive analytics and big data, you can identify the skills and talent you will need in the near future. If you start early, you can scoop up these professionals before your competitors do.

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